Studies: Random Student Drug Testing Doesn’t Cut Abuse


In its 2007 budget, the Bush administration seeks $15 million to fund random drug testing of students–a 50 percent increase over 2006. Yet, reports that the two major studies on student testing conclude that it doesn’t actually reduce drug use. Teens are notorious for assuming that nothing bad will happen to them, Slate explains. In addition, a student who chooses to do drugs already has more than a random chance of getting caught.

Because most schools test only students who do something more than just show up for class–like join an after-school club, park on campus, or play a sport–kids can avoid the activities rather than quit puffing. Testing may not change much more of the equation than that. The first study, published in 2003, looked at 76,000 students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades in hundreds of schools, between 1998 and 2001. It was conducted by Ryoko Yamaguchi, Lloyd Johnston, and Patrick O’Malley out of the University of Michigan, which also produces Monitoring the Future, the university’s highly regarded annual survey of student drug use, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and whose numbers the White House regularly cites. The White House criticized the Michigan study for failing to look at the efficacy of random testing. So, Yamaguchi, Johnston, and O’Malley added the random element and ran their study again, this time adding data for the year 2002. The follow-up study, published later in 2003, tracked 94,000 middle- and high-school students. It reached the same results as its precursor.


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